Baltimore’s Best Barbecue Joints

Although it’s alliterative, Baltimore and barbecue haven’t historically been known to go together. (Save for pit beef, of course, but even that has been labeled by some as not being “real barbecue.”) We’re obviously a city better known for our seafood, but, as senior contributor Mike Unger explored in this 2014 story, Charm City’s barbecue scene is making serious strides.

As the summer heat comes through to slow cook you, you might find yourself craving some fingerlickin’ fare, and there are all kinds of stellar spots in the area with a solution or two.

George Marsh, owner of Heritage Smokehouse on York Road in Govans, says that Baltimore’s separation from barbecue country grants chefs in the area more creative liberty.

“Maryland’s kind of an interesting state because everybody’s been to different places, and since we don’t have our own style, I think people’s expectations for what they’re gonna get are a bit more open when they come to a barbecue place, which helps us,” Marsh explains. “That way we don’t have people coming in angry because we’re not we’re not following the rules for the region. If I was in Texas, and I was trying to do some outside-of-the normal Texas barbecue, I might be run out of town. Here, I kind of have the freedom to do whatever I want.”

Marsh certainly takes advantage of that freedom, even throwing regional staples into the mix on his menu. His smoked soft shell crabs, for example, are covered in a seasoned flour and smoked for about 20-30 minutes at 225 degrees until they are around three quarters of the way cooked. Once a customer puts in an order, the crabs are deep fried and served with a mustard-buttermilk dressing. Heritage also offers a cold-smoked rockfish, usually smoked over hickory wood before being pan-roasted and plated alongside creamed corn, charred cherry tomatoes, and hazelnut salsa macha. 

Marsh isn’t the only chef in town helping our smokin’ scene to thrive. We put together a list of some of the best local joints to satisfy your ‘cue cravings:

Andy Nelson’s: You can’t miss the fiberglass pig that sits atop this pit palace overlooking York Road. Owned by its namesake, former Baltimore Colts player Andy Nelson (who can still be found taste-testing the hickory smoked barbecue from time to time), the spot offers a mix of Memphis-style dishes and family recipes passed down by Nelson’s father, Guy Nelson, a barbecuer from Alabama. The eatery features meats including wet or dry Memphis-style ribs, pulled pork, chicken, turkey, and beef of all kinds. Don’t forget some Southern sides like cole slaw, collard greens, and cornbread to round out the meal. 11007 York Rd., Cockeysville

Big Bad Wolf’s House of Barbecue: Inside this little yellow brick house, no little piggies are safe. But if we’re getting into semantics, neither are cows, chickens, or catfish. While pork ribs might be the first thing on the menu, there’s also beef ribs, barbecue chicken, and tons of sandwiches. The restaurant’s signature dish, the “Big Bad Wolf,” is two parts piggy (pulled pork and hickory smoked bacon) and one part beef brisket. Give it a try to see if it huffs, puffs, and blows your taste buds away. 5713 Harford Rd.

Blacksauce Kitchen: It only takes one bite of the mouthwatering biscuit sandwiches–often overflowing with shredded smoked meats–from this fan-favorite purveyor to get you hooked. On Thursdays and Saturdays, chef Damian Mosley and his team serve their rotating menu of smoked specialties (think: beef back ribs with peach-mustard barbecue sauce, skirt steak with chimichurri, and seven-spice wings) from Blacksauce’s Remington storefront, as well as at the Waverly Farmers Market. 401 W. 29th St.